Christmas gifts: a decisive weekend for “made in France” toys

Despite the disruptions linked to the “yellow vests” crisis, French toys – which represent 12% of toy sales in France – hope to be successful in this Christmas 2018. The last purchases of this weekend are announced decisive.

Will there be success for toys produced in France at Christmas? The question remains unresolved. “We will find out in the coming days. French toys were on a good dynamic and the results will certainly not be bad, but it has greatly hampered our stores. It will not be made up, ”explains Alain Ingberg, executive director of the Association of French toy creators (ACFJF), which brings together around forty toy players who create or manufacture in France.

“Most of the toy stores are on the outskirts in shopping centers that have been blocked off,” continues Alain Ingberg, who is also the former CEO and owner of Meccano. According to him, “the big winner of the blockages is Amazon”, the e-commerce giant.

A decisive week for the toy market

If some toy stores have undoubtedly sold less than expected, there is nothing to be alarmed about. Far from there. Franck Mathais, spokesperson for JouéClub (300 stores in France), explains as well as on the evening of December 17, JouéClub was at “+ 2% growth in December compared to last year”.

For toys as a whole, including those made in France, everything is actually played out this week, and in particular this weekend just before Christmas. “Traditionally, we make 34% of our annual sales in December, including 10% the week before Christmas,” explains Franck Mathais. “For toy brands, Christmas sales are 50% of sales,” adds Alain Ingberg. Then there will be another crucial week, that of the “New Year’s gifts”: the children who will have received a small ticket at Christmas will potentially buy toys in the process.

12%: this is the weight of “made in France” in the toy market in France

During this Christmas 2018, “made in France” toys hope to continue their momentum. French toys are indeed on the rise and have been gaining market share in France for several years. According to the NPD Group, one of the world leaders in market research, French brands represent 12% of toy sales in France. “The French toy has gained momentum over the past five years. Five years ago, French brands represented between 6 and 7% of sales, ”explains Franck Mathais. In total, the value of the French toy market is 3.3 billion euros. Still according to the NPD Group, French brands are particularly represented in certain sectors: artistic activities (28% of sales), wooden toys (26%), board games and puzzles (21%) or the outdoors. (17%), notably with games from the Smoby brand, located in the Jura.

“800,000 Sophie la Girafe are sold each year in 80 countries”

Alain Ingberg, Executive Director of the Association of French Toy Creators (ACFJF)

The NPD Group also notes that French brands make 40% of their sales from exports, like Sophie la Girafe, made in Rumilly (Savoie) by Vulli, a true ambassador of France internationally. “800,000 giraffes are sold each year in 80 countries,” explains Alain Ingberg. In China, especially in Beijing and Shanghai, Sophie la Girafe has even become a star. Last significant figure: 30% of French toy purchases are made by grandparents.

Local employment and ecological dimension

Why is “made in France” on the rise in the toy market? Promoting employment in France, favoring quality, avoiding bringing toys from the other side of the world by plane or boat… there are many reasons. “It became natural and it ends up becoming commonplace. People are realizing that toys need to travel less distance, ”says Alain Ingberg. “It is not a fashion phenomenon but a real underlying trend”, abounds Franck Mathais. Before continuing: “When people enter the stores and they have few ideas, some ask if there are French games because they know that there is employment behind”.

In addition to this consumer demand for French manufacturing, the entire French toy industry is organizing itself to be successful, as Franck Mathais explains. “Manufacturers have highlighted the ‘made in France’ on the packaging and no longer hesitate to highlight the national flag,” he describes. In its catalogs, JouéClub specifies which toys are manufactured in France, while in stores, sellers often refer customers to French toys.

Bioviva, Mako Moulages…: these companies who play the game of “made in France”

The Bioviva brand offers games to discover nature and animals. Bioviva

Some toy brands explicitly choose “made in France”. This is the case with Bioviva, a company that designs, produces and markets educational games based on the discovery of nature and animals. Bioviva sells around 800,000 sets per year. “All our products are made in France. Our games are sold throughout France as well as in ten countries, notably Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Canada… ”, explains Jean-Thierry Winstel, founding director of Bioviva. Labeled “Guaranteed French Origin”, the company employs 20 people in Montpellier and 40 at its manufacturing site in Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux (Drôme). This is where Bioviva entered into a partnership with the Graphot printing company, which manufactures all of its games.

“We made the bet to move forward together by using recycled paper, vegetable-based ink and by implementing waste management,” says Jean-Thierry Winstel. Bioviva has also created its online sales site in order to understand its customers’ expectations, and even manages logistics: carriers are selected on the basis of their CO2 emissions.

“We want to have a strong societal commitment and create jobs at the local level”

Jean-Thierry Winstel, founding director of Bioviva

According to him, “made in France” makes it possible to “guarantee quality, traceability and transparency”, but also to adapt more quickly to demand (which is not the case for brands that manufacture their toys in China). “We want to have a strong societal commitment and create jobs at the local level”, also continues the business manager. But manufacturing in France obviously involves many requirements and constraints. “The hardest part is to have prices at the same level as Chinese manufacturing because the consumer is ready to put a little more money but not a lot,” said Jean-Thierry Winstel. Before continuing: “We are obliged to control our manufacturing costs, our expenses, our stocks… and that obliges us to be innovative”. Bioviva will end at around 3.6 million euros in turnover in 2018. We started with growth of more than 20% and we will end at 8% for the year. The last two months have greatly disturbed us but our Christmas remains positive overall, ”concludes Jean-Thierry Winstel.

“I want my products to be made in France”

Agnès Beuchet, director of Mako Moulages

Mako Moulages offers a “My Famous Monuments” box. Mako Castings

Mako Moulages – which offers creative leisure games based on the manipulation of matter to create fairies, dinosaurs or even monuments – is also one of the companies that showcase French know-how. “The Mako Moulages brand was created 60 years ago. It disappeared from the shelves for 15 years and I relaunched it 4 years ago, ”explains Agnès Beuchet, its manager.

“From the start, I wanted my products to be made in France. People want to consume differently, in a reasoned way and close to home. There is strong demand from consumers and it is gaining influence everywhere in France, in all social circles, ”continues Agnès Beuchet.

A large part of Mako Moulages’ production is made in France. “The plaster comes from Carpentras, the latex from Allier, the plaster is put in sachets in Yonne, the paper instructions are printed in the North, the plastic parts come from Dordogne and we have everything assembled in Dordogne also ”, summarizes Agnès Beuchet. In total, the company employs around thirty people, mainly small artisans. Agnès Beuchet is pleased to be at the head of a sustainable brand, which “manufactures in a reasonable and ethical manner in the French industrial ecosystem”. “Our in-store sales are progressing year after year,” continues the manager, who specifies that her brand appeals to “parents who want to play and share with their children”. Mako Moulages was not too impacted by the “yellow vests” movement because the brand created its merchant website and is mainly present in specialist shops located in town centers. “Manufacturing in France has enabled us to deliver our stores quickly,” concludes Agnès Beuchet.

As Christmas is fast approaching, latecomers who still haven’t done their shopping will perhaps be tempted to give French production a boost. A few days ago, MEP Emmanuel Maurel drew up a list of French manufacturers – including toy brands – to whom he recommended to turn for his Christmas shopping. An initiative that may give some ideas.

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